This weekend I attended the Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville. I hardly know where to begin.
Human trafficking is, by definition, "the commercial exchange and exploitation of humans including forced prostitution and pornography, involuntary labor, servitude and debt bondage". Ever since I heard about the issue of human trafficking a few years ago, God has just been breaking my heart over the issue and has continued to stir that passion more and more over the years. Granted, there are a million issues and injustices in the world over which my heart breaks, but there is nothing like this one to me. The fact that there are young girls and boys (as well as adults) who are literally being held as slaves for the sole purpose of giving their bodies away day and night is one of the most horrific tragedies that I can imagine.
We received an insane number of statistics this weekend, but here are some of the ones that stood out the most to me:
- There are approximately 300,000 trafficking victims today in the U.S. ...yes...right here (and if there are 300,000 victims used 30-40 times a day, how many men are participating in buying women and children? Do the math...)
- There are only 50 beds in safe-houses for these 300,000 victims. (My good friend and I have been continually praying about the possibility of opening a home for victims in the states...this fact just encouraged/inspired us even more)
- Every minute, two children are forced into sex trafficking. That means that in one full day, 2,880 children have been forced into this horrific world (if I did my math right....)
- Sex-trafficked children are raped 8-30 times per day
- There is $32 billion in total yearly profits in human trafficking
- "Pimping" is an art...good grief, it blew me away. These people are highly skilled at what they do (and are actually able to share their skills through various pimping books and conferences held nationwide).
- The average cost to "de-virginize" an 8-9 year old is $50K (the younger they are, the more expensive they are)
- The vast majority of prostituted children in America are American girls (most people think that the majority are girls from other countries that are shipped to the states)
- For you Tennesseans, 78 out of the 95 counties in TN have had some form of human trafficking in the last two years
But.....statistics are faceless. They are numbing. And as Christine Caine (founder of the A21 Campaign) says, "A statistic is just a number until you meet the one."
Well we got to meet a few of those "ones" this weekend. There were a few trafficking survivors who shared their stories at the conference, and it was these women who inspired us to hope and to action. The problem is massive and overwhelming. You can feel defeated before you even start. But if it weren't for the brave men and women who decided to move on this issue, take a stand for justice, and be an agent of healing and hope, I wonder if any of those survivors would have the incredible stories that they have. They were once caught in some of the most horrific stories of abuse, terror, darkness and despair and are now thriving, full of hope, educated and married with their own families.
All I could hear in my head while I was listening to their stories was:
Into the darkness you shine, out of the ashes we rise.
There's no one like You, none like You
Our God is greater, Our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, awesome in power.
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.
(I don't care how tired of that song you might be...those lyrics kick some serious tail)
I feel like I'm going to be digesting things from this weekend for days and weeks to come. We were able to meet many people involved in fighting this problem as well as restoring its victims, and we now have a list of people just in the Nashville area with whom we will be meeting in the weeks to come to learn, dialogue, and possibly collaborate with.
So...I write this post for two reasons:
- I just want to continue to be part of raising awareness of this horrific issue in the world.
- I want to challenge you to ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. As I said earlier, there are countless ways that our enemy is attacking in this world. By no means do I expect people to be passionate about this issue. But I pray that God would give you eyes to see the broken and the hurting and give you a fire in your gut about something out there, whether it be a heart for the sick, the addict, the poverty-stricken, the broken family, fill-in-the-blank.
I once heard Christine Caine tell this story of when she and her son go out and buy a flashlight and in his excitement in the checkout line at Walmart, he asks, "Mommy, can we go out and find some darkness?" The kid's got it right! As followers of Christ, we are here to bring His light into this dark and hurting world. And until we get that, I fear that we lose our purpose.
I continue to believe that God is calling me to move in this issue. I still don't know for sure what that specifically means, but there was this amazing feeling as we left the conference that we were like an army - a united front - just ready to go out to pierce the darkness in the name of Jesus. I love the unity that happens when the people of God join together in His name to fight. And if our God is with us, then what can stand against! Let's go find some darkness...
We watched this video at the conference (yes, a tad cheesy but still...powerful message...)
For more information regarding sex trafficking (and to find out how you can get involved), check out these sites: